Jusuf Nurkic

Blazers Notes: Ownership, Nurkic, Hood, Kanter

While there’s a perception in NBA circles that the Trail Blazers‘ ownership situation is unsettled in the wake of Paul Allen‘s death last fall, the team’s head of basketball operations, Neil Olshey, doesn’t subscribe to that notion, as Jason Quick of The Athletic relays.

“Nothing is unsettled. Jody is our owner,” Olshey said during the Blazers’ exit interviews, referring to Paul’s sister Jody Allen. “She has been fantastic in terms of engagement. She has addressed the team when we’ve asked her to. She was really emotional after the OKC series, that was the validation, knowing how much Paul believed in the core of this group and to see it come to fruition.

“Jody stepped up and spoke to the team in a way that resonated with everybody and struck a chord with the players and staff and everyone there that she has our back, she has a vision for the franchise, she believes in the group, she cares about the players, and the magnitude of what she has had to take on,” Olshey continued, per Quick. “At a time when we needed ownership to show solidarity with the front office, the coaching staff, the business division, she was there for us.”

Allen has exhibited that commitment to the franchise since Portland’s season ended earlier this month, having locked up Olshey and head coach Terry Stotts to contract extensions.

Here’s more on the Blazers:

  • According to Olshey (via Quick), injured Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic is making “great progress” from his broken left leg. While the team hasn’t offered a specific recovery timetable for Nurkic, Quick speculates that the big man could be ready to return to action sometime just before next season’s All-Star break. “Guys can’t believe where he is relative to what they saw only four weeks ago,” Olshey said of Nurkic. “He is a core piece to this roster, a foundational piece going forward, and we are going to drive him. But also knowing we are going to do what’s best for Nurk on a long-term basis in terms of his recovery and his timeline.”
  • The Blazers aren’t expecting to be able to retain Rodney Hood or Enes Kanter using the taxpayer mid-level exception (projected to be worth about $5.7MM), writes Quick. If the club can shed enough salary to gain access to the full mid-level exception – or Hood and Kanter don’t receive as much interest as anticipated – Hood would likely be the priority over Kanter, in Quick’s view.
  • Quick doesn’t expect the Blazers’ three big expiring contracts for Evan Turner, Meyers Leonard, and Maurice Harkless to garner a ton of interest on the trade market this offseason, contending that they could become more intriguing trade chips during the season.
  • Former St. John’s guard Shamorie Ponds is set to work out for the Trail Blazers on Friday, tweets Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com. According to Quick, Portland will likely only hold “three or four” pre-draft workouts since the club has just one pick (No. 25) in this year’s draft.

Northwest Notes: McCollum, Nurkic, Tolliver, Jensen

Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum has been sidelined with a left popliteus strain since March 16, but has ramped up his on-court work as he nears a potential return, writes Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com. McCollum still wasn’t ready to commit to a specific return date, but sounded optimistic that he won’t be on the shelf for much longer.

“I think, having did some stuff today, I’m going to see how my body reacts, try to get through this week, see where I’m at and kind of go from there,” McCollum said on Wednesday. “When I first got hurt there were some dates that I kind of circled and I’m getting close to them, so I’ll see how I feel. But the biggest thing for me is to make sure I’m symptom-free, make sure I don’t have any lingering issues before I step back on the court.”

With four games left in the season, Portland has a two-game cushion on Utah for the No. 4 seed. The Blazers will finish their season against the Nuggets (twice), the Lakers, and the Kings as they look to secure home court advantage for the first round — it remains to be seen whether McCollum will be able to get back for any of those games.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • The Trail Blazers recorded their 50th win on Wednesday night, which means that injured center Jusuf Nurkic has officially earned a $1.25MM bonus. As Bobby Marks of ESPN.com details, Portland is now on the hook for another $2.19MM in tax costs, though that number will decrease a little when Maurice Harkless fails to shoot 35% on threes. Nurkic’s cap hit for 2019/20 will rise from $12MM to $13.25MM, since that 50-win bonus is now considered “likely” for next season.
  • When the Timberwolves faced the Mavericks last night, Anthony Tolliver could have been playing against the Wolves rather than for them, notes Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News, who tweets that he thinks Minnesota should have accepted Dallas’ trade offer of J.J. Barea and a second-round pick. Wolfson has previously reported that the Thunder and Raptors offered second-round picks attached to Patrick Patterson and C.J. Miles, respectively, for Tolliver, but those deals would’ve taken the Wolves into the tax.
  • In a discussion at The Athletic, Britt Robson and Jon Krawczynski look ahead to the Timberwolves’ offseason, examining the return from the Jimmy Butler trade, Ryan Saunders‘ future, and much more.
  • Jazz assistant Alex Jensen interviewed for the head coaching position at BYU this week, league sources tell Tony Jones of The Athletic (Twitter link). Jeff Goodman of Stadium (Twitter link) first identified Jensen as a potential frontrunner for BYU.

And-Ones: Nurkic, Bonuses, Draft, Poirier

Jusuf Nurkic‘s season came to an early end this week when he suffered a horrific leg injury that figures to sideline him for much of the 2019/20 campaign as well. While it was a devastating blow for Nurkic and the Trail Blazers, the veteran center might get a bit of good news before the regular season.

As Bobby Marks of ESPN.com details in an Insider-only story, Nurkic will earn a $1.25MM bonus if Portland records at least 50 wins this season. The Trail Blazers’ record currently sits at 47-27, giving the team eight more games to win three more games, which seems like a reasonable bet. If Nurkic does earn that bonus, the Blazers’ projected tax bill will increase by more than $2MM and the big man’s cap hits in future seasons would rise, Marks notes.

Marks has the details on several other potential incentives within his article, noting that Clint Capela (Rockets) and Kyle Lowry (Raptors) will earn bonuses of $1MM and $500K respectively if their teams reach the conference finals. Lowry, who must appear in five of Toronto’s last six games to achieve his bonus, also gets a $500K incentive if the Raptors reach the NBA Finals and another $500K if they win the title.

Let’s round up a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world…

  • Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson are two of the most successful players in NBA history, but they’ve yet to achieve much success as executives for the Hornets and Lakers respectively. Shaun Powell of NBA.com takes a look at how the two NBA legends are trying to turn their teams into winners.
  • The NCAA has made some changes to its rules for early entrants this year, as underclassmen are now permitted to hire agents while they test the draft waters and retain their NCAA eligibility. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony (Insider link) breaks down the new rules, with multiple agents weighing in on the pros and cons of the changes for young prospects.
  • French big man Vincent Poirier, who plays for Baskonia in Spain, said in an interview with RMC Sports that there are NBA clubs with interest in him, as Orazio Cauchi of Sportando relays. It’s not clear which teams those are, or whether they’ll attempt to bring him stateside once his contract with Baskonia expires.

Blazers Lose Jusuf Nurkic With “Devastating” Injury

2:55pm: Nurkic underwent surgery to repair his compound fractures today, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. While Nurkic has been ruled out indefinitely, the good news is that there was no nerve or muscle damage in his leg, league sources tell Charania.

8:57am: Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic suffered compound fractures to his left tibia and fibula last night, putting him out of action for the rest of the season and probably well into next season, writes Joe Freeman of The Oregonian.

The injury occurred in the second overtime of a win over the Nets as Nurkic landed on several players after jumping for a rebound. The crowd went silent before chanting Nurkic’s name in a show of support. Teammates turned away because of the gruesome nature of the injury.

“It made me sick to my stomach,” Damian Lillard said.

After a long examination by trainers and team doctors, Nurkic received a huge ovation as he was carried off on a stretcher. Coach Terry Stotts called the injury “devastating” as it casts a shadow over the rest of the season for a Portland team that clinched a playoff spot with the victory.

“It’s terrible,” Zach Collins said. “Obviously you never want to see that happen, especially with your own teammate that you go to war with every night. Nurk, he’s been having a hell of a season. He had an amazing game tonight. And for it to end like that for him, it’s just tough. All we can do is be there for him and hope he’s in as little pain as possible and knows that we’ve got his back.”

At age 24, Nurkic was putting together his best season, averaging career highs with 15.6 PPG and 10.4 RPG. He is signed for nearly $25MM over the next two seasons and has a non-guaranteed $12MM salary for 2021/22. His absence should create a greater role for Enes Kanter, who signed with Portland last month after reaching a buyout with the Knicks.

Players from around the NBA sent messages of support on social media last night, while the Trail Blazers struggled to deal with the impact of losing a beloved teammate and a vital part of their hopes for the postseason.

“I’m going to go home and pray for him because this is way bigger than basketball,” Kanter said. “We clinched a playoff spot and we’re not even celebrating. He was a big part of our family — not our team, our family — and I just don’t know what to say. It’s definitely tough.”

Pacific Notes: Rondo, Ingles, Cousins, Shumpert, Divac

Lakers point guard Rajon Rondo has been cleared to practice, Mike Bresnahan of Spectrum SportsNet tweets. The Lakers will not practice prior to their game against Houston on Saturday, so Rondo’s first practice will be delayed until at least Sunday. Rondo hasn’t played since Christmas Day due to a torn ligament in his right ring finger. Rondo, who will be an unrestricted free agent once again this summer, underwent surgery on December 28th.

We have more from around the Pacific Division:

  • Clippers coach Doc Rivers still rues the day the franchise let Joe Ingles go, Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News reports. Ingles was the team’s last cut during 2014 training camp because the roster was already filled with guarantee contracts. Ingles has since emerged as a key piece for the Jazz. “I said it the day we released him that this was a bad decision and that we’re going to regret it,” Rivers said. “Unfortunately  I was working for someone who said we couldn’t eat a contract. We were begging to eat one contract and they said that will never happen and we had to let him go.”
  • The Warriors know there will be adjustment period once DeMarcus Cousins returns to action but they’re confident he’ll eventually fit in, Nick Friedell of ESPN writes. Like many of the team’s stars, Cousins is used to having the ball in his hands frequently. They’ll all have to learn to share it even more with a dominant low-post scorer in the lineup. “Obviously, we want him to be himself,” Stephen Curry said. “We want him to be that player that he knows he can be. Bring that specific and unique skill set to kind of change our look a little bit. We have high-IQ guys all over the floor that will be able to figure it out. It might not be smooth at the beginning because it is going to be different, but he brings another element that we’ve never had before.”
  • Kings guard Iman Shumpert denies that he tried to enter Portland’s locker room in a confrontation manner on Monday, he tweets. Shumpert was apparently upset at Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic for setting a hard pick on him but said he merely wanted to talk things out. “I was respectful of their team’s space and privacy. I waited outside and asked to have a conversation. I was greeted by team security that talked to me and I left.”
  • Kings GM Vlade Divac confirms that he told minority owners to stop meddling in the team’s affairs, Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee tweets. Divac made his feelings known during a conference call with members of the team’s executive board. “I just told them about my plan,” he informed Anderson. When asked if he told those owners to stop meddling and leaking stories, he replied, “Yeah, that’s my plan.”

Trail Blazers Rumors: Stotts, Lillard, Collins

After their 2017/18 season ended with a four-game sweep at the hands of the Pelicans in the first round of the postseason, the Trail Blazers came close to firing head coach Terry Stotts, sources tell ESPN’s Zach Lowe. Portland was close enough to making a move that teams like the Suns begin reaching out to intermediaries to gauge Stotts’ potential interest in their own coaching openings.

However, while ownership seriously considered a change, president of basketball operations Neil Olshey and star point guard Damian Lillard fought for Stotts, according to Lowe.

“I was asked what I thought, and I just said I love him as a coach,” Lillard said of Stotts. “We all love him.”

Lowe’s piece takes a deep dive into the Trail Blazers’ culture, as he notes that Lillard and C.J. McCollum “tolerate no squabbling, or blame games.” That attitude permeates the organization from top to bottom, according to Lowe, who points to the relationship between Olshey and Stotts as another example.

Although the two team leaders haven’t always seen eye-to-eye on everything, they’ve developed an understanding that Olshey will avoid players who don’t fit Stotts’ style and Stotts will coach the players he gets. As a result of their relationship, Lowe explains, players will never see Olshey and Stotts at odds in any serious way, as the organization emphasizes a drama-free and resentment-free culture.

Here’s more from Lowe on the Blazers:

  • The Blazers’ late owner Paul Allen, who passed away last month, addressed the team in the wake of its first-round exit, calling the four-game sweep “unacceptable,” sources tell Lowe. Based on the language and the tone, people within the organization were nervous that a major shakeup was coming during the offseason.
  • Allen was ultimately convinced to give everyone – including Stotts and the Blazers’ core – one more season, while team management and coaches vowed to make changes heading into 2018/19. Namely, as Lowe details, Portland wanted to surround Evan Turner with more shooting on the second unit, re-shuffle the rotation to get Lillard and McCollum more playing time together, and get off to a faster start this season. So far, that plan is going well.
  • The Blazers still want to find a way to supplement their Lillard/McCollum duo with a third impact player, sources around the NBA tell Lowe. Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic have emerged as perhaps Portland’s most valuable trade chips, but the club doesn’t want to trade Collins and “almost certainly won’t” anytime soon, Lowe reports.
  • Lowe identifies Khris Middleton and Tobias Harris as the type of player who would appeal to the Blazers, though acquiring either of those guys in a trade or as a free agent would be an extreme long shot. Forwards like Otto Porter of the Wizards and Taurean Prince of the Hawks may be more realistic trade targets, Lowe notes.
  • Lillard still believes the Blazers are capable of reaching greater heights during his tenure with the team. “Good things come to good people, even if you get swept somewhere along the way,” he tells Lowe. “This is what goes through my mind: I’m gonna be in my 11th year or something here, I’m gonna stick with it, and we’re gonna make the Finals.”

Contract Notes: Jokic, Gordon, Nurkic, Jazz

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic didn’t technically sign a maximum-salary contract when he re-upped with the club this summer, but he can increase his 2018/19 earnings to the maximum if he helps lead Denver to postseason success.

As ESPN’s Bobby Marks details (subscription required), Jokic is one of several NBA players with incentives in their contracts for the coming season. In Jokic’s case, he’s currently about $862K shy of his maximum salary, but he can earn $431K if the Nuggets advance to the playoffs, and another $431K if they win in the first round.

Here are a few more details from Marks on this season’s incentives and bonuses:

  • Aaron Gordon has a potential path to an All-Star nod in an Eastern Conference that lost more top talent this offseason. Gordon’s new contract with the Magic calls for a $500K bonus if he’s named an All-Star, per Marks. He could also further increase his earnings by being named to the All-NBA and All-Defense teams at season’s end.
  • Jusuf Nurkic can earn an extra $1.25MM this season if he appears in 70 games and the Trail Blazers crack the 50-win threshold, according to Marks. Nurkic played in 79 games last season, but because Portland only had 49 wins, this incentive is considered unlikely and doesn’t currently count against Nurkic’s cap hit.
  • Davis Bertans has to meet several criteria in order to earn a $250K bonus on his new contract with the Spurs — the veteran forward must play in 70 games, make 165 three-pointers, and average 6.5 defensive rebounds per 36 minutes, as Marks details.
  • Dante Exum, Raul Neto, and Derrick Favors all have incentives on their new deals with the Jazz, with a focus on games played — they all must appear in at least 67 games to start earning their bonuses. Favors, in particular, has plenty riding on his performance, as he can earn $2.8MM in incentives. Of those incentives, $900K are considered likely and already count against his cap charge.
  • Marks also notes that several players will have a chance to become eligible for super-max contracts with their current clubs if they make All-NBA teams this season. That list includes Anthony Davis (Pelicans), Draymond Green (Warriors), Klay Thompson (Warriors), Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers), and Kemba Walker (Hornets). Additionally, Devin Booker‘s new extension with the Suns would start at 27.5% of the cap if he’s named to the All-NBA Third Team, 28.5% if he’s named to the Second Team, and 30% for First Team.

Northwest Rumors: Butler, Porter, Thunder, Aminu

The Nets, Knicks, Nuggets, Sixers and Lakers are potential landing spots for Jimmy Butler if the Timberwolves decide to trade him before he hits free agency next summer, Frank Urbina of HoopsHype opines. Butler is reportedly meeting with Minnesota’s brass on Monday to discuss his future with the organization. The Nets could offer a package featuring the Nuggets’ top-12 protected 2019 first-round pick, as well as defensive-minded wing Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, while Denver could make either Jamal MurrayGary Harris and Michael Porter Jr. the centerpiece in a deal for the All-Star wing, Urbina adds.

We have more from around the Northwest Division:

  • Porter is trying to return to full strength after two back surgeries and there’s no guarantee he’ll play this season, Christopher Dempsey of the team’s website writes in a player profile. The Nuggets will keep him on the sidelines until they’re convinced the rookie forward won’t have any setbacks. There’s no timetable on when he will be ready to make his debut, Dempsey adds.
  • Defense will be the Thunder’s biggest strengths this season, according to Basketball Insiders’ season preview of the team. The return of Andre Roberson from his knee injury and the subtraction of Carmelo Anthony give the Thunder five above-average-to-elite defenders in their lineup. Oklahoma City’s biggest issue is closing out games but without the chemistry issues caused by trying to fit Anthony in with Russell Westbrook and Paul George, its performances in the clutch should also improve this season.
  • Trail Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu and center Jusuf Nurkic have returned to Portland after competing in regional FIBA World Cup qualifiers last week, according to Casey Holdahl of the team’s website. Aminu helped Nigeria go 3-0 during the tournament but Bosnia and Herzegovina went winless in two games despite the efforts of Nurkic.
  • Shooting guard Darius Johnson-Odom has remained in Minnesota to work out following his recent tryout with the Timberwolves, Darren Wolfson of KSTP tweets. He could still be added to the training camp roster, Wolfson adds.

Contract Details: CP3, MCW, Nurkic, Anderson

The Rockets‘ four-year max deal for Chris Paul includes a player option in year four, according to Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link). While that added detail on CP3’s new agreement with Houston is interesting, the possibility of an opt-out probably won’t be a factor in 2021 when a decision is due. Paul will be 36 years old when he has to decide on that $44MM+ option, so he seems unlikely to turn it down.

Pincus has several more specific details on recently-signed contracts, so let’s round them up…

  • Michael Carter-Williams‘ one-year, minimum-salary contract with the Rockets isn’t fully guaranteed. The deal, worth $1,757,429 in total, has a $1.2MM partial guarantee for now (Twitter link).
  • The Trail Blazers‘ agreement with Jusuf Nurkic can be worth up to $54MM, but has a base value of $48MM, with $6MM in unlikely incentives. The fourth and final year is also currently only partially guaranteed for $4MM (Twitter link).
  • Kyle Anderson‘s new four-year contract with the Grizzlies features a 15% trade kicker (Twitter link).
  • Bruce Brown (Pistons) and Keita Bates-Diop (Timberwolves) got three-year, minimum-salary deals with two guaranteed seasons from their respective teams (Twitter link).
  • Of the two-way contracts signed so far this offseason, Billy Preston‘s deal with the Cavaliers is the only one confirmed to be for two years rather than just one (Twitter link).

Blazers Re-Sign Jusuf Nurkic To Four-Year Deal

JULY 7, 12:20pm: Per Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post, Nurkic’s partial guarantee in the final season of his new contract – 2021/22 – is for $4MM.

JULY 7, 7:23am: The Trail Blazers have officially re-signed Nurkic, the club early on Saturday morning in a press release.

JULY 6: Restricted free agent center Jusuf Nurkic has agreed to a four-year, $48MM contract to remain with the Trail Blazers, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.

The deal includes a partial guarantee in the fourth season, Wojnarowski adds. The contract could be worth up to $53MM, according to Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports.

The 7-foot Nurkic, who turns 24 in August, posted averages of 14.3 PPG, 9.0 RPG and 1.4 BPG last season. Nurkic started all 79 games in which he played.

Nurkic could have signed for more money a few months ago, according to Wojnarowski’s follow-up story, but turned down that offer. With the market shrinking, Nurkic decided to take the Blazers’ revised offer.

Nurkic’s career took off when the Nuggets traded him to Portland during the 2016/17 season. He was one of the top big men available on the free agent market this summer, coming in at No. 16 overall on our list of 2018’s top 50 free agents.

With Nurkic back under contract, the Blazers have now made three signings this week, adding Nik Stauskas and Seth Curry to the mix as well. Those new deals project to take Portland over the tax line, though there’s still plenty of time for the team to dip back below it — last year, for instance, the Blazers went well over that threshold before moving Allen Crabbe and Noah Vonleh to avoid becoming a taxpayer.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.